Branding guru/innovator Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle has had a multitude of jobs over the years, from selling whoopee cushions to performing magic shows to peddling soda on the beach.
Ultimately, he learned an important lesson. “I realized I could make money doing something that made me happy and others happy, too,” Earle said Sunday during the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
Earle’s latest venture is an exclusive t-shirt brand, Johnny Cupcakes, that started as a joke but grew to be a multi-million dollar operation. He regularly uses innovative marketing and social media to get hundreds of people to camp outside his mock bakeries, which sell cutting-edge t-shirts instead of cupcakes.
“We did this just for fun,” he said, “But word-of-mouth spread like peanut butter and all of a sudden people started asking to buy the t-shirts.”
While there’s no obvious connection between t-shirts and credit unions, Earle offers several lessons he has learned that credit union marketers can embrace:
• Strange is good, and it’s important. “Strange” sets you apart from the rest.
• Invest in your brand to attract new customers and to engage current customers.
• Meet new people to learn about their failures and successes. Talk about how to do things better.
• Have fun every day and incorporate humor in every part of your daily life. “Work with fun people,” Earle added. “That can affect everything you do in your life.”
• Stay positive—and avoid those who aren’t.
• Create brand ambassadors who’ll tell your story and provide positive word-of-mouth.
• Embrace collaboration. Two parties sharing resources are usually better than one.
• Realize that one idea is never enough. “Everyone is distracted,” Earle said. “How will you get people to raise their heads away from their phones?”
• Surprise your customers with giveaways and events. “People thrive on new experiences,” he said. “Give them something to talk about and to share on social media. When you give people a memory, that lasts a long time.”
• Thank your customers, particularly with hand-written notes. “They go a long way; much further than a text message or email.”
• Realize success isn’t about money. It’s about doing what you love and being happy.
“Do more of what makes you happy,” Earle said.